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Hashtag 'scalpel': Hospital to live-tweet ear surgery

Ever wished you could watch a surgical procedure unfold? Seattle's Swedish Medical Center is getting set to share a play-by-play of a cochlear implant operation.

Cochlear implants such as the one pictured help an estimated 220,000 people who are profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing to hear.
Seth Rosenblatt/CNET

If you're on Twitter, you've probably followed a live-tweeted gadget reveal or political convention or Olympics event or Mars rover landing in your day. You probably have not, however, followed a live-tweeted surgery. That could change tomorrow.

As Dr. Douglas Backous performs a cochlear implant operation at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center, his moves will be tweeted live, with still photos from inside the operating room posted to Instagram (presumably not by Backous himself).

The social-media surgery is part of a broader campaign by the hospital to bring attention to hearing loss and raise awareness of cochlear implants as one treatment. The hospital has already produced a series of videos addressing ear health and cochlear implants and posted them to the hospital's Web site and YouTube.

"About 87 percent of the population that could be treated doesn't know about this option," Backous told Forbes. "As the Gen Yer's look to have kids who could be helped by this, or will soon take care of their parents, who could also benefit, we want to engage with them on their own terms."

Tomorrow does not mark the first live-tweeted surgery we've heard of; earlier this year, a Houston hospital live-tweeted the successful removal of a tumor from a 21-year-old woman's brain. Still, surgery play-by-plays on Twitter are far from common social-media happenings.

Tomorrow's live-tweeted and Instagrammed surgery will be the coup de theatre of Swedish Medical Center's hearing series. The operation is set to start at 7:40 a.m. local time (follow @Swedish and hashtag #SwedishHear to view) and will be followed by text-based live chats with leading hearing-loss experts the following Wednesday, October 10, at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. PT.

A cochlear implant sends sound signals sent directly to implanted electrodes in the ear's cochlea that stimulate auditory nerves, bypassing the ear canal and eardrum altogether. Hopefully all will go well for tomorrow's patient, resulting only in healthy and happy hashtags.

Seattle PR rep Drew Symonds has already posted this Instagram shot in preparation for tomorrow's social-media surgery. Instagram user @instadroo